Saturday, September 16, 2006

Three Days to Never, Tim Powers

I've been a big fan of Powers' work for a long time (more than my wife -- she couldn't make it through Expiration Date), and I have to say with this book and especially Declare, his previous offering, Tim Powers owns the Supernatural Spy Thriller sub-genre. OK, there aren't a lot of other people writing in that niche, perhaps Brian Lumley's Necroscope series, although that's more horrific than just supernatural, and perhaps a few of Koontz's early works... hmm... pair this with Lightning, perhaps, for a reading double feature?

TDTN deals with a hidden legacy of Albert Einstein, Charlie Chaplin movies, a supernatural branch of Israel's Mossad, a talking head in a box, a blind woman who sees through others' eyes and a thoroughly engaging story.

But it seems he's gone back to the same well a couple too many times. A lot of this book seems to rehash things he's written before: the legacy of a scientist and encounters with ghosts (Expiration Date), the whole middle-eastern spy stuff (Declare), time travel (Anubis Gates). But this is good. Really good. It's just that Declare was magnificent. The weaving of demonic forces, spies, bits of now and bits of then just worked so much better there than here.

If I had to pick two Powers books, I'd say Declare and Last Call, the others are all worth reading too (although Epitaph in Rust and The Scies Discrowned are an expensive two-pack hardcover for what were originally -- though now rare -- cheap paperbacks).

OK, now *READ* Nightwatch Tonight

I finished the paperback of the translated Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko, on which the movie (look down) was based. The link goes to Froogle by the way -- I don't shill for anyone.

The movie was a non-stop WOW -- heavy duty action, flash, and outright weirdness. The book is a little more mundane, more talky, but still full of wonder.
A big difference is that the book makes it pretty obvious the author is a role-playing game fan -- "levels" of sorcery, references to Jedi, and such, but that's not a problem, certainly.

The movie covers only the first part of the book, although there are some major differences in how things are set up, and the relationships between Anton (the lead), Egor (the young boy) and Svetlana (the woman under a curse) -- I won't spoil it, but the resolution in the movie is actually a little stronger, although it burns some of the later stories in the book. Some of the things are explained a little better: Licensing vampires to hunt has a balance -- the Light are permitted to heal, to help to cure. Everything is perfectly balanced in the Truce between light and dark. The morality of this -- why can't light just do good? -- is the primary struggle for Anton.

A few of the scenes from the movie are straight out of the book and make a bit more sense: Zabulon/Zavulon sitting in the apartment where the Light are trying to figure out what to do about Svetlana's curse is nearly letter-for-letter, and makes more sense when they describe that the Daywatch is always permitted to have an observer when the Nightwatch has a field operation. Anton's sad, exhausted mood is very well captured from book to movie.

It's an entertaining read, good beach/plane reading. I'm looking forward to the second volume (due translated in January), and the second movie (which has been out since the first of the year in Russia, no word on the subtitled version for us here).

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Glasshouse, Charles Stross

So, another book review.

Darn good book. Set apparently in the same universe as Accelerando, but not so much as you'd have to read that first, it covers the life of Robin, recently recovering from memory editing and deciding to take place in a psychological experiment/LARP in a 'dark ages' (our time) simulation.

The book has suggestions of Phillip K Dick-ian "am I real?" psychoses (if your memory has been edited, how do you know what is real and what isn't), plus it gives a nice reflection of our Antivirus-dependent computing society (Consider it an update of the network situation of Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep). There's some good laughs at what the future "us" thinks might have been going on in the century from 1950 forward (nuclear families, gender segregation of jobs and household), and some great tech concepts, such as: if you have instantaneous wormhole teleportation, a blaster can be nothing more than a gateway to a star's surface.

I've come lately into Stross' work (having read Accelerando free online), and he and John Scalzi (Old Man's War) got robbed at the Hugos this year. This book has a great chance at next year's Rocketship-shaped award, if Scalzi's Ghost Brigades don't beat him to it.